Aug 7, 2012 No Comments ›› Pat Dollard
(THE TELEGRAPH) Tehran will continue to back Syria and Bashar al-Assad’s regime because the alliance between the two countries is central to Iran’s foreign policy in the region, a senior Iran official has said.Iran has accused Turkey and Gulf countries of arming the rebel opposition in Syria, in collusion with the United States and Israel, to overthrow the Assad regime, Tehran’s key regional ally.
Saeed Jalili, the head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, appeared with the Syrian leader in Damascus on Tuesday to pledge Iran’s support for Assad regime.
“Iran will never allow the resistance axis – of which Syria is an essential pillar – to break. What is happening in Syria is not an internal issue but a conflict between the axis of resistance on one hand, and the regional and global enemies of this axis on the other,” he said.
Assad appeared on television for the first time in two weeks in footage showing him meeting Mr Jalili and vowed to cleanse Syria of “terrorists,” as his troops stepped up air and artillery bombardments on rebels in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city.
“The Syrian people and their government are determined to purge the country of terrorists and to fight the terrorists without respite,” he said, according to state news agency SANA.Assad’s appearance came the day after his Riyad Hijab, Syria’s prime minister defected to rebels. His absence from public view had fuelled rumours about his health, including a hoax Twitter message on Monday that quoted Russia’s ambassador to Damascus as saying Assad might have been killed.
Tehran, which has voiced growing criticism of support by the United States, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar for the rebels, also sent its foreign minister to Ankara and a letter to Washington holding them responsible for the fate of 48 kidnapped Iranians.
Iranian state media quoted Mr Jalili as saying Tehran “believes in national dialogue between all domestic groups to be the solution, and believes foreign solutions are not helpful.” “The Syrian people are hostile to any plan supported by the Zionists and the US,” he was reported as saying.
The last time footage of Assad was screened was when he received new armed forces chief General Ali Ayyub on July 22, four days after a bombing claimed by the rebel Free Syrian Army killed four top security chiefs.
In Beirut on Monday, Jalili issued a veiled warning to countries backing the rebels. “Those who believe that, by developing insecurity in the countries of the region by sending arms and exporting terrorism, they are buying security for themselves are wrong,” he told Lebanese Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour, Iran’s official IRNA news agency said.
Following the Damascus talks, Jalili told Iran’s Al-Alam Arabic-language television Tehran was using “all means possible” to secure the release of 48 of its citizens abducted by rebels.
He said Tehran held responsible not only the kidnappers but also those foreign governments that supported the rebels fighting Assad’s forces. “We believe that not only terrorists but also their supporters are responsible for this criminal act,” Jalali said.